Happy [Cinco De Mayo
I had a great weekend, participating in this year's ["World Laughter Day"] yesterday, and preparingfor tonight's festivities, found me pulling out the various packages from "Simply Dinners" from my freezer.
A Tucson-based company, [Simply Dinners] offers an alternative to restaurant eating.My sister went there, assembled a set of freezer-proof plastic bags containingall the right ingredients based on specific recipes, and gave them to me for my birthday, and they have been sitting in my freezer ever since... until last weekend.
My sister was careful to choose items that fit my [Paleolithic Diet] that my nutritionist has me on. However, I was skepticalthat any plastic bag full of frozen groceries would be any better than anything I could assemble on my own.I did, after all, attend "chef school" and do know how to cook well. Each package was intended to be a "dinner for two" but since I am single, was two meals each for me.
So, I decided to try them out, which would also give me more room in my freezer for incoming items, and theycame out very well. The outside of each plastic bag was a label that explained all the steps required to heatthe food. Partially-cooked vegetables were wrapped in foil, and went in for the last 10 minutes of cooking the meat.The process was straightforward, and the meals were delicious, but nothing I could not have done on my own witha recipe and a trip to the grocery store.
The question is whether someone with little or no skills could achieve similar, or acceptable results. I havefriends who are limited to assembling sandwiches from luncheon meats and cheese slices, as anything involvingheat other than simply boiling water is beyond their skills.
What does this have to do with storage? Blogger Taylor Allis from Sun Microsystems has a few posts[Sun is on to something - Open Storage and An Easier Storage Platform - OpenSolaris"] that explain Sun's recent press release[Sun Microsystems Extends World's First Open Storage Platform with New Services and Tools in OpenSolaris Operating System].
The key difference between "cooking for yourself" and "building your own storage" is that you aren't buildingstorage for just yourself. Unless you are a one-person SMB company, you are building storage that all of youremployees and managers count on to do their jobs, and by extension your customers and stockholders count on.
Of course I had to read responses from others before jumping in with my thoughts.Dave Raffo from Storage Soup writes [Sun going down in storage],feeling this is yet another indication that Sun has lost their mind, recounting previous events that supportthat theory.EMC blogger Mark Twomey in his StorageZilla posts [When Open Isn't] felt a littlebit guilty kicking a competitor when down. EMC blogger Chuck Hollis questions the reasons peoplemight be tempted to even try this in his post [Do-it-Yourself Storage]. Here'san excerpt:
I really, really struggle with this concept, I do. Here's why:
Anything I use and get comfortable with -- well, I'm "locked in" to a certain degree. If I use a lot of storage software X; well, I'm sorta locked in, aren't I? Or, if I put my servers-as-storage on a three-year lease, I'm kind of locked in, aren't I?"
(For EMC, vendor lock-in is great when customers are using and comfortable with EMC products, and awful when they use andare comfortable with storage from someone else. But nobody who is "comfortable" with what they have ever complain about"vendor lock-in" do they? It's the ones who are growing uncomfortable and feel trapped in changing. Howinvolved a company's use of EMC's proprietary interfaces are can greatly determine the obstacles in switching toa different vendor.Of course, if you count yourself as someone growing uncomfortable with your existing storage vendor, IBM can help you fix that problem, but that is a subject for another post.)
Worried about "vendor lock-in"? Try "admin lock-in" where you must keep a storage admin around because he or shewas the one that put your storage together. I've seen several companies held hostage by their system adminsfor home-grown scripts that serve as "duct tape for the enterprise".The other issue is whether you have storage admins who have the necessary hardware and software engineering skillsto put suitable storage together. There are some very smart storage admins I know who could, and others that wouldhave a difficult time with this.
No doubt this is promising for the home office. I myself have taken several PCs that were running older versions of Windows,but not powerful enough to upgrade to Windows Vista, wiped them clean, loaded Linux, and configured them from everythingfrom simple browser workstations to full LAMP application server configurations. While this might sound easy, I am a professional hardwareand software engineer with Linux skills.I have no doubt that someone with sufficient engineering and Solaris skills could put together a storage system for home use.
One area where Sun definitely benefits from this "Open Storage" approach is to develop Solaris skills. I have no personal experience with OpenSolaris, but assume that if you learn it, you would be able to switch overto full Solaris quite easily.Today, most people have Windows, Linux and/or MacOS skills coming into the workforce, and this could be Sun's way of getting new fresh faces who understand Solaris commands to replace retiring "baby boomers". The lack of Solaris-knowledgeable admins is perhaps one reason why companies are switching to IBM AIX, Linux or Windows in theirdata center.
Certainly, IBM's strategic choice to support Linuxhas been a great success. People learn Linux on their home systems, and at school, and are able to carry those skillsto Linux running on everything from the smallest IBM blade server to IBM's biggest mainframe.
The videos on Sun for the "recipes" on how to put together various "storage configurations in ten minutes" appear simplerthan last summer's "How to hack an Apple iPhone to switch away from AT&T" procedures.
technorati tags: Cinco De Mayo, World Laughter Day, Simply Dinners, Paleolithic, diet, Taylor Allis, OpenSolaris, Solaris, open storage, Dave Raffo, Mark Twomey, Chuck Hollis, EMC, Sun, Linux, Windows, MacOS, mainframe, blade, recipes, hack, Apple, iPhone, AT&T
Jon Toigo over at DrunkenData writes in his post[A Wink and a Nod
] about thebenefits of the new IBM System z10 Enterprise Class mainframe. Here's an excerpt about storage:
"The other key point worth making about this scenario is that storage behind a z10 must conform to IBM DASD rules. That means no more BS standards wars between knuckle-draggers in the storage world who continue to mitigate the heterogeneous interoperability and manageability of distributed systems storage using proprietary lock in technologies designed as much to lock in the consumer and lock out the competition as to deliver any real value. That has got to be worth something."
For z/OS and TPF operating systems, disk must support CCW commands over ESCON or FICON connections, or NFS commandsover the Local Area Network. However, most of the workloads that are being ported over from x86 platforms willprobably be running Linux on System z images, and as such Linux supports both CCW and SCSI protocols, the latterover native FCP connections through a Storage Area Network (SAN) or via iSCSI over the Local Area Network. Many SAN directors support both FCP and FICON, and the z10 also supports both 1Gbps and 10Gbps Ethernet, so you may not have to invest in any new networking gear.
The best part is that you may not have to migrate your data. The IBM System Storage SAN Volume Controller is supported for Linux on System z, and with "image mode" you can leave the data in its original format on its original disk array. Many file systems are now supported by Linux, including Windows NTFS with the latest NTFS-3G driver.
If your data is already on NAS storage, such as the IBM System Storage N series disk systems, then the IBM z10can access it directly, from z/OS, z/VM or Linux.
Have lots of LTO tape data? Linux on System z supports LTO as well.
Jon continues his rant with a question about porting Microsoft Windows applications. Here's another excerpt:
"For one, what do we do with all the Microsoft servers. There is no Redmond-sanctioned approach to my knowledge for virtualizing Microsoft SQL Server or Exchange Server in a mainframe partition."
Yes, it is possible to run Windows on a mainframe through emulation, but I feel that's the wrong approach. Instead, the focus should be on running "functionally equivalent" programs on the native mainframe operating systems, and again Linuxis often the best choice for this. Switching from Windows to Linux may not be "Redmond-sanctioned", but it getsthe job done.
Instead of SQL Server, consider something functionally equivalent like IBM's DB2 Universal Database, or perhaps an open source database like MySQL, PostgreSQL or Apache Derby. Well-written applications use standard SQL calls, so ifthe application does not try to use unique, proprietary features of MS SQL Server, you are in good shape.
In my discussion last November on [Microsoft Exchange email server], I mentioned that Bynari makes a functionally equivalent email server on Linux that works with your existing Microsoft Outlook clients. Your end-users wouldn't know you migrated to a mainframe! (well, they might notice their email runs faster)
So if your data center has three or more racks of Sun, Dell or HP "pizza box" or "blade" x86 servers, chances are you can migrate the processing over to a shiny new IBM z10 EC mainframe, save some money in the process, without too much impact to your existing Ethernet, SAN or storage system infrastructure. IBM can even help you dispose of the oldx86 machines so that their toxic chemicals don't end up in any landfill.
technorati tags: Jon Toigo, DrunkenData, IBM, z10, CCW, ESCON, FICON, SCSI, FCP, iSCSI, SAN Volume Controller, SVC, N series, NAS, NFS, NTFS, SAN, LAN, Ethernet, z/OS, TPF, z/VM, Linux, DB2, MySQL, PostgreSQL, Apache Derby, Microsoft, Windows
No, this is not an announcement about myself moving to Nepal.
My friends over at OLE Nepal are [looking for a Super SysAdmin]willing to live in Nepal for five months and help out with their project to help the students in the localschools there. I think this might be a great opportunity for someone to help changethe world. Those of you who have read my past blog posts about the One Laptop per Child [OLPC], such as [Understanding the LAMP platform] and [Supporting OLPC Schools with LAMP stacks] may understand the type of work involved.
- You dream in Bash
- IPv4, IPv6, Wireless Mesh networking? No problem! You know linux networking inside and out
- Extensive knowledge of BIND, DHCPD, Squid, Apache, security, etc.
- Experience working with [Moodle] would be most excellent (it is basically a PHP web application that maintains MySQL databases for lesson plans, homework assignments and other school related information)
- Adept with Python scripting or could learn it quickly. OLPC has standardized on Python for scripting (although knowledge in Perl and PHP won't hurt either)
- You look to implement a practical solution that less skilled sysadmins can easily maintain over a cooler but more complicated solution.
- You play well with others. You don’t alienate collaborators with rude e-mails that assert your technical superiority (even though you are)
- Your primary concern is meeting the educational needs of kids and teachers. Your rate technical awesomeness a distant second to meeting those critical needs.
I've been working with Dev, Bryan and Sulochan for the past three months (remotely here from Tucson, AZ)but we've come to a point where we need on-site expertise. I will continue to provide remote support.
Given the number of readers who have contacted me over the past year looking for an IT job (or a different job because they are not happy where they are), this could be an amazing experience.
technorati tags: OLE Nepal, OLPC, Bash, Linux, IPv6, Mesh, networking, Squid, Apache, security, Moodle, LAMP, PHP, Perl, Python
A reader of my blog asked me what seemed like a simple enough question:
Whatever happened to Lotus Approach? I loved that personal db. (thoughit's been awhile...)
Of course, researching an answer, I encountered some interesting new information. Interestingly, everyone tries to "read between the lines" and tries to determine what solution is best.
From a colleague from Lotus:
You can still get [Lotus Approach] as part of Smartsuite.
However, I have to assume his real question is ... "what is the quick and easy way for me to build a lightweight database app like Microsoft Access that I can distribute as a standalone executable?"
To which I would say "Lotus has a program called Approach, which is part of Lotus SmartSuite, which some people still use. However, a lot of the focus in IBM now centers around the lightweight Cloudscape database which IBM acquired from Informix, which is now known as the [open source project called Derby]. Many IBM and Lotus products, such as Lotus Expeditor use the JDBC connection to Derby, which allows you to use Windows, Linux, Flash, etc. ... with no vendor lock in".
I am familiar with Cloudscape, and I evaluated it as a potential database for IBM TotalStorage Productivity Center, when I was the lead architect defining the version 1 release. It runs entirely on Java, which is both a plus and minus. Plus in that it runs anywhere Java runs, but a minus in that it is not optimized for high performance or large scalability. Because of this, we decided instead on using the full commercial DB2 database instead for Productivity Center.
Not to be undone, my colleagues over at DB2 offered a different alternative, [DB2 Express-C], which runs on a variety of Windows, Linux-x86, and Linux on POWER platforms. It is "free" as in beer, not free as in speech, which means you can download and use it today at no charge, and even ship products with it included, but you are not allowed to modify and distribute altered versions of it, as you can with "free as in speech" open source code, as in the case of Derby above (see [Apache License 2.0"] for details).
(If you have no idea what I am talking about in my distinction between "free speech" and "free beer", see Simon Phipps' article[Perspective: Free speech, free beer and free software] orthe definition from the [Free Software Foundation].)
As I see it, DB2 Express-C has two key advantages. First, if you like the free version, you can purchase a "support contract" for those that need extra hand-holding, or are using this as part of a commercial business venture. Second,for those who do prefer vendor lock-in, it is easyto upgrade Express-C to the full IBM DB2 database product, so if you are developing a product intended for use with DB2, you can develop it first with DB2 Express-C, and migrate up to full DB2 commercial version when you are ready.
This is perhaps more information than you probably expected for such a simple question. Meanwhile, I am stilltrying to figure out MySQL as part of my [OLPC volunteer project].
technorati tags: IBM, Lotus, Approach, SmartSuite, TotalStorage, Productivity Center, Cloudscape, Apache, Derby, free, speech, beer, DB2, Express-C, Windows, Linux, POWER, open source
Many people have asked me if there was any logic with the IBM naming convention of IBM Systems branded servers. Here's your quick and easy cheat sheet:
- System x -- "x" for cross-platform architecture. Technologies from our mainframe and UNIX servers were brought into chips that sit next to the Intel or AMD processors to provide a more reliable x86 server experience. For example, some models have a POWER processor-based Remote Supervisor Adapter (RSA).
- System p -- "p" for POWER architecture.
- System z -- "z" for Zero-downtime, zero-exposures. Our lawyers prefer "near-zero", but this is about as close as you get to ["six-nines" availability] in our industry, with the highest level of security and encryption, no other vendor comes close, so you get the idea.
But what about the "i" for System i? Officially, it stands for "Integrated" in that it could integrate different applications running on different operating systems onto a [COMMON
] platform. Options were available to insert Intel-based processor cards that ran Windows, or attach special cables that allowed separate System x servers running Windows to attach to a System i. Both allowed Windows applications to share the internal LAN and SAN inside the System i machine. Later, IBM allowed [AIX on System i
] and [Linux on Power
] operating systems to run as well.
From a storage perspective, we often joked that the "i" stood for "island", as most System i machines used internal disk, or attached externally to only a fewselected models of disk from IBM and EMC that had special support for i5/OS using a special, non-standard 520-byte disk block size. This meant only our popular IBM System Storage DS6000 and DS8000 series disk systems were available. This block size requirement only applies to disk. For tape, i5/OS supports both IBM TS1120 and LTO tape systems. For the most part,System i machines stood separate from the mainframe, and the rest of the Linux, UNIX and Windows distributed serverson the data center floor.
Often, when I am talking to customers, they ask when will product xyz be supported on System z or System i?I explained that IBM's strategy is not to make all storage devices connect via ESCON/FICON or support non-standard block sizes, but rather to get the servers to use standard 512-byte block size, Fibre Channel and other standard protocols.(The old adage applies: If you can't get Mohamed to move to the mountain, get the mountain to move to Mohamed).
On the System z mainframe, we are 60 percent there, allowing three of the five operating systems (z/VM, z/VSE and Linux) to access FCP-based disk and tape devices. (Four out of six if you include [OpenSolaris for the mainframe])But what about System i? As the characters on the popular television show [LOST] would say: It's time to get off the island!
Last week, IBM announced the new [i5/OS V6R1 operating system] with features that will greatly improve the use of external storage on this platform. Check this out:
- POWER6-based System i 570 model server
Our latest, most powerful POWER processor brought to the System i platform. The 570 model will be the first in the System i family of servers to make use of new processing technology, using up to 16 (sixteen!) POWER6 processors (running at 4.7GHZ) in each machine.The advantage of the new processors is the increased commercial processing workload (CPW) rating, 31 percent greater than the POWER5+ version and 72 percent greater than the POWER5 version. CPW is the "MIPS" or "TeraFlops" rating for comparing System i servers.Here is the[Announcement Letter].
- Fibre Channel Adapter for System i hardware
That's right, these are [Smart IOAs], so an I/O Processor (IOP) is no longer required! You can even boot the Initial Program Load (IPL) direclty from SAN-attached tape.This brings System i to the 21st century for Business Continuity options.
- Virtual I/O Server (VIOS)
[VirtualI/O Server] has been around for System p machines, but now available on System i as well. This allows multiplelogical partitions (LPARs) to access resources like Ethernet cards and FCP host bus adapters. In the case of storage, the VIOS handles the 520-byte to 512-byte conversion, so that i5/OS systems can now read and write to standard FCP devices like the IBM System Storage DS4800 and DS4700 disk systems.
- IBM System Storage DS4000 series
Initially, we have certified DS4700 and DS4800 disk systems to work with i5/OS, but more devices are in plan.This means that you can now share your DS4700 between i5/OS and your other Linux, UNIX and Windowsservers, take advantage of a mix of FC and SATA disk capacities, RAID6 protection, and so on.
- IBM PowerVM
To call [IBM PowerVM] the "VMware for the POWER architecture" would not do it quite justice. In combination with VIOS, IBM PowerVM is able to run a variety of AIX, Linux and i5/OS guest images.The "Live Partition Mobility" feature allows you to easily move guest images from one system to another, while they are running, just like VMotion for x86 machines.
And while we are on the topic of x86, PowerVM is also able to represent a Linux-x86 emulation base to run x86-compiled applications. While many Linux applications could be re-complied from source code for the POWER architecture "as is", others required perhaps 1-2 percent modification to port them over, and that was too much for some software development houses. Now, we can run most x86-compiled Linux application binaries in their original form on POWER architecture servers.
- BladeCenter JS22 Express
The POWER6-based [JS22 Express blade] can run i5/OS, taking advantage of PowerVM and VIOS to access all of the BladeCenterresources. The BladeCenter lets you mix and match POWER and x86-based blades in the same chassis, providing theultimate in flexibility.
Now that's exciting!
technorati tags: IBM, System x, System p, System i, System z, island, COMMON, AIX, Linux, POWER, POWER6, Windows, EMC, DS6000, DS8000, TS1120, LTO, ESCON, FICON, 520-byte, z/VM, z/VSE, z/OS, z/TPF, OpenSolaris, mainframe, LOST, CPW, x86, VMware, VMotion, BladeCenter, JS22, i5/OS, V6R1, PowerVM, VIOS, LPAR, DS4700, DS4800, LTO, disk, SAN, tape, storage